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Hong Kong release activists on bail

August 30, 2019

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong was released hours after police "forcefully" pushed him into a car. It has emerged that Beijing rejected the Hong Kong government's plans to withdraw a controversial extradition bill.

Joshua Wong
Image: Phoebe Kong

Hong Kong pro-democracy campaigner Joshua Wong was granted bail on Friday after police arrested several activists.

The 22-year-old's political party, Demosisto, wrote on Twitter that Wong and fellow party member Agnes Chow had been released. Earlier, the party said Wong had been "forcefully pushed into a private minivan on the street in broad daylight."

"We will not surrender," Wong told reporters following his release, appealing to the international community to tell Chinese President Xi Jinping "that sending troops or using emergency orders is not the way out."

Hong Kong police charged Wong and Chow with unlawfully organizing a public meeting outside police headquarters in June. The case has been adjourned until November 8.

Wong served two months in jail earlier this year over his role in the 2014 "Umbrella Movement" protests against a Beijing initiative to screen candidates for the city's top executive. 

In response to the arrests on Friday, a civil rights group called off a massive rally that was planned to take place on Saturday outside Beijing's Liaison Office. Police had earlier banned the march.

Read more: Hong Kong crisis — What you need to know

Several activists detained

Police have detained several prominent activists in recent days, including Andy Chan — a founder of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party.

Chan was arrested at Hong Kong International Airport on Thursday as he was boarding his flight to Japan. Authorities said he was suspected of participating in riots and attacking police officers.

Chan's independence party, which was outlawed in 2018, has just a few dozen members but China takes a dim view of any pro-independence movements, no matter how small.

Joshua Wong: 'We will continue our fight'

Demands not met

Three months of predominantly peaceful protests started in Hong Kong earlier this summer when the territory's chief executive, Carrie Lam tried to enact an extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be extradited and tried in mainland China. Wong has been calling on Lam to quit ever since.

After widespread outrage, Lam suspended the act. But many protesters want it permanently abolished. The protests have since grown to include calls for more democracy in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory and an inquiry into reports of police violence.

Read more: West reluctant to criticize China over Hong Kong stance

Beijing rejected plan to appease protesters

On Friday, the Reuters news agency said Beijing had turned down a suggestion from Lam that the extradition bill be permanently withdrawn.

Citing three senior government officials in the Hong Kong administration, it said Lam had advocated a plan to respond to the protesters' five main demands, which she said would defuse the mounting political crisis.

Chinese leaders, however, insisted the bill should not be withdrawn. Instead, they said the Hong Kong government should take more initiative.

Anniversary protest quelled

Saturday's rally, which has been banned by authorities, was set to mark the fifth anniversary of Beijing's denial of universal suffrage in Hong Kong. That ruling fueled the Umbrella Movement, which was led mainly by young protesters, including Wong.

On Thursday, China brought fresh troops into Hong Kong in what it described as nothing more than a routine move.

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong: 'We will never step backward'

However, Chinese soldiers stationed in Hong Kong are not there "to sit on their hands" if the situation deteriorates, an editorial in the China Daily newspaper said on Friday.

rs, mm, jsi/ng (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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